Monaco 2009: Time Trial Royale


I recently had a choice opportunity to explore the Principality of Monaco. It's famous for an annual Formula 1 Grand Prix in May, the grand opera house-styled Monte-Carlo Casino, and an overall exotic toasty location on the French Riviera that attracts many wealthy tourists. All of which contribute to its tax haven status - there are no personal income taxes because casino and tourist revenue fund most public programs for the 33,000 inhabitants sitting on its tiny 2 sq.km tract of land.

I'm sure the tax haven status is a primary reason that a cyclist like Tom Boonen calls it home. This coming year, though, it's of particular note to the rest of us cyclists because it will be host to Stage 1 of the 2009 Tour de France.

There's Almost Nothing Flat in Monaco

The exact route hasn't been unveiled yet. But just walking - or should I say climbing - around this little nation leads me to believe this stage will be different than many Tour time trials. Monaco is a small city that has been shoved onto an even smaller side of the Alps where they take a last tumble into the Mediterranean Sea.







It really struck me how there seems to be no flat roads in the principality. I mean, look at these photos.



This has huge implications for the beginning of the 2009 Tour de France. In fact, I think the Tour has acknowledged this. Look closely at the Tour schedule - there isn't any Prologue in 2009. Monaco is labeled "Stage 1".

Usually, the Tour begins with a Prologue time trial that is more of a formal presentation of the riders and their teams, with the best traditional time trialist taking the opening yellow jersey. It's usually a rider that is slightly bigger, and rolls well over a relatively short time trial course.

It'll Begin With A Battle-Royale

But 2009 will be different. Monaco will prove to be a climber's battle, and a perfect showcase for the Tour's two defending champions: Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre. I call Contador a defending champion because his Team Astana's exclusion from last year's Tour meant he really didn't get a chance to defend his 2007 title.

I'm sure it will prove to be one of the more exciting Grand Departs of recent Tours. On these roads, no one can hide! Both of these champions have shown themselves to be excellent climbers, and worthy time trialists when the jersey is on the line.

Be sure to tune in July 4th, 2009, for a spectacular battle-royale around Casino-Royale!


Photos by: Me, Your Bicycling Blogger